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Pete Wishart : What would the right hon. Gentleman say to countrymen of mine who face the fastest depopulation in the whole of western Europe? I accept that there might be overheating in the south-east of England, but we will have chronic problems unless we address our population issues and crisis.
Mr. Lilley: The idea that southern England needs to be encouraged to import masses of people because Scotland is unable to retain its own population would be wrong. In any case, I have good news for the hon. Gentleman: the flow from Scotland to the rest of the UK has ceased and reversed. The latest figures show that there is now a net flow back to Scotland from the rest of the United Kingdom, so he need not worry too much. Keep up the good work and make the country as attractive as the rest of the United Kingdom and it is all solved[Interruption.] I speak as someone who is half-Scottish and wants to see that happen. I have to add that Scotland is intrinsically perhaps the most attractive part of the United Kingdom, but the political policies that have been pursued there in recent years have had the negative effects that the hon. Gentleman bravely pointed out.
It is sensible to have some limits on the number of people coming here. We know from the Government's forecasts that they expect the population of the United Kingdom over the next quarter of a century to increasepredominately in the south-east of Englandby some 6 million or 7 million people, of whom 85 per cent. will be the result of expected net immigration into this country, even assuming, as the Government do, that the rate of such immigration diminishes sharply from the rate that we
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experienced last year. I hope that the Government will use their proposed policy to allow sensible forms of immigration, rather than as a cover for substantial continuing immigration that will cause the pressures on housing and land use and the creation of congestion that we in the south-east have seen, but the Government refuse to acknowledge, which lie behind the problems that I and most of my colleagues in neighbouring constituencies constantly face as we are urged to build more and more houses for more and more people.
Keith Vaz (Leicester, East) (Lab): I start with an apologyI have already apologised to the Ministerfor not being able to be here at the end of the debate. However, bearing in mind that the Minister and the hon. Member for Ashford (Damian Green), the Conservative Front-Bench spokesman, were on their feet for an hour and five minutes, I do not think that many issues will need to be clarified in the wind-ups. I congratulate the hon. Member for Cheadle (Mark Hunter) on his maiden Front-Bench speech. It was a model maiden speech that went on for only 13 minutes, and I hope he makes many contributions from the Front Bench of that length.
I pay tribute to the Minister for Immigration, Citizenship and Nationality for the work that he has done to ensure that we have the beginnings of an appropriate system for immigration control. I was going to praise the scheme even more and embellish my praise, but the hon. Members for Ashford and for Cheadle both claimed ownership of it as Conservative and Liberal Democrat policy. Whoever's policy it is, it is right that we have taken the trouble to spend time examining the various schemes that operate in the policy area and reducing the number of schemes from 80 to five. However, like my right hon. Friend the Member for Oxford, East (Mr. Smith) and my hon. Friend the Member for Walthamstow (Mr. Gerrard), I have reservations about aspects of the way in which the system will operate.
The Minister for Immigration, Citizenship and Nationality will know from his constituency experience the importance of getting our immigration policy right because it deals with not only the people mentioned by the right hon. Member for Hitchin and Harpenden (Mr. Lilley)those coming inbut those who are here: the settled community. It is absolutely vital that we deal with immigration policy sensibly and maturely, and having an Adjournment debate rather than a whipped vote on an aspect of policy makes it easier to do so. However, when we have had whipped votes on immigration policy in the past three or four years, the House has not divided.
I hope that the system that we are debating today will enable us to achieve clarity on the way in which applications are made. One concern that has always been with me since I started to do immigration work in my constituency is the complexity of the work permit scheme. Sometimes, a work permit is issued in Sheffield, but when the applicant is interviewed in Mumbai or New Delhi, the application is turned round. In such cases, the trouble and expense of obtaining the work permit is suddenly put to one side, which creates enormous difficulties for enterprises that rely on bringing people into the country in order to fill the skills gap.
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In introducing a new policy, I am also concerned that we bring members of staff with us so far as the facilities at Sheffield and Lunar house are concerned. It is important in dealing with a new set of rules that those who will implement the policy are fully up to speed with what has been proposed and that they are also part of the mechanism by which we improve the system.
I hope that the Minister will tell us something about the results of the recent inquiry into the immigration and nationality directorate in his winding-up speech. I thought that the Minister was a bit harsh on the hon. Member for Putney (Justine Greening), because she raised issues about the way in which the IND operates, such as the length of time that it takes for hon. Members to obtain replies to questions. I, too, have received letters from the IND about cases that I have been dealing with for several years, and those problems have not been resolved. I know that the IND has a new director-general, Lin Homer, who has brought a fresh approach to the way in which it operates, but when one writes to constituents and tells them that their case will be dealt with in 13 weeks, it is important that they receive a response within that period.
Although the Minister has provided a written answer to the allegations made by Mr. Panmani about the problems that have occurred in the IND, we have not received a definitive response from him on the steps that he has taken. He identified the serious problems and set up the inquiry very quickly, and I congratulate him on doing so, but it is important that he makes it clear that those matters have been dealt with and that those responsible for some of the practices at the IND have been dealt with severely. Confidence in the system means confidence in those who are administering the system, which means those at Lunar house and other Home Office facilities.
We also need a more joined-up approach on the decision-making process. A lot of the information gathering will take place at the overseas posts, so we should not underestimate the importance of the entry clearance system. I know that the hon. Member for Ashford has referred to that point in passing, but it is important that we get the decisions right in the overall way in which we deal with immigration cases. We must realise that those applications will be considered here, but when we get the information from the overseas posts, it is vital that it is as accurate as possible.
At today's sitting of the Select Committee on Constitutional Affairs, we took evidence from the president of the asylum and immigration tribunal, Sir Henry Hodge, and the lead judge of the administrative court, Mr. Justice Collins, who was worried and concerned about the tribunal's backlog. He said that it was 80,000 cases. He has opened all the cupboards at the tribunal's offices, and he found that there were more cases than he thought. We asked whether the abolition of the right of appeal under the Immigration, Nationality and Asylum Bill would help, as there will not be any rights of appeal on work permits and in student cases, but he said that it would not make any
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difference. Why abolish or prevent appeals, when it is possible to have a system that will allow someone other than the departments themselves to scrutinise decisions by officials? It is vital that we reconsider the issue and make sure that there is a right of appeal. In my view, that is the most important way in which we can guarantee that justice is done. The scheme has been set up, and its broad thrust is apparent. I accept that the Minister is not going to announce today that the right of appeal is to be retained or restored, but I hope that he accepts that abolishing it will not suddenly reduce the number of cases brought to tribunal, as the president of the immigration appeal tribunal says that it will not make any difference.
Finally, may I raise the subject of chefs, to which I have previously referred? I thank my hon. Friend the Minister for meeting colleagues and myself to discuss the issue. There are some fine restaurants in his constituency of Harrow, East, in Harrow and in Stanmore. It is an important industry for Britain10,000 restaurants make 2 million curries every weekworth £2.5 billion. I am sure, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that you and other hon. Members have a favourite Indian restaurant. It is probably run by Bangladeshis, but they are called Indian restaurants, so let us be fair to them all and call them south Asian restaurants. If the Minister goes to the Maurya restaurant on Stanmore broadway on Saturday and asks the owner about his chef, he will discover that he has come from abroad. If he goes to the Tales of India restaurant on Buckingham parade in Stanmore he will find that the chef has come from Sylhet. If he goes to the fine restaurants in Harrow, they will say that their chefs are brought to this country. They will all say that there is a shortage of specialist chefs now. The Minister says that the scheme, with its wonderful tiers, will solve the problem of shortages. He guarantees that no chef who has cooked in a five-star restaurant in Mumbai will be refused admission because he cannot get into tier 2. That is a significant challenge. I guarantee that many chefs in five-star hotels on the sub-continent will want to come to work in our country.
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